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“Junk Days”?

April 28, 2012
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Letter to the Editor:

"Junk Days"?

I was at the Tama County Historical Society, a few months ago. You know, near the brick building in Toledo, with the alarming looking defused bombs of the WW 2 and Vietnam era outside.There I came across in a historical picture book of a 1890's house I am trying to fix up on Harmon Street. What struck me about the book was all the pictures of grand Victorian porches and elegant houses that existed in this area. It sends a person reeling. Where did they come from? Where did they go? Sure there are some houses with nice porches around town. But one after another?

It reminds me of the National Geographic article where they just happened to find a rusted piece of a very intricate computer like object in a 2,000 year old Phoenician ship while doing an archeological dig on the bottom of the Mediterranean sea floor. The reaction this infers is "Say what?".

What gives the pictures more oomph is, the reaction from the local denizens. "Oh, that. Well this area was once called "Little Chicago", they say with a slight hint of boredom.

If one was so inclined one could spend a lively after noon imagining all the local people that made this possible and the social milieu it implies. They say birds of a feather flock together.

So I guess it was inevitable I happened to befriend an eccentric englishman who had moved to the Toledo area a few years back.

The Englishman "Steve" who had bought the mansion on Mason Street, also felt the historical echo's of a time goneby. A construction and civil engineer by training, an eccentric by nationality, just by a cursory investigation of his house, he had turned up historical curiosities.

Turns out, a long time ago when the town was just getting established, the captain and owner of said land that Steve now owned, had convinced the Mesquawki and Fox tribe to build a railroad through their settlement.

Some sort of alliance between him and the tribe whereby a mutually satisfactoryrelationship occurred.

This captain built a stately house on the west side of Toledo. Steve, inquisitive by nature and professionally trained by nurture, made me grudgingly aware of some of his historical finds. As Steve expounded away at the link between the sociological elements and the remanatorial architectural tidbits he had unearthed, I dully became more aware of some of the social history of the region.

So it was probably inevitable and with slight exasperation I came across a piece of manufacturing pipe. I spied it on the curb, last week during "junk days", while bicycling to the hardware store. What I really wanted was the electric motor on the contraption, but I got more than I bargained for. Figuring, finders keepers, I forgot about the hardware store, and went back to get my socket set and wrenches and hence started loosening bolts. As one layer after another came off, like a Babushka doll, I became aware of astounding design tolerances. The more I loosened the more bolts, the more I realized what a technological marvel it was. With triple aluminum turbines,concentric housings etc...

I soon began to realize that I had come across another surprising artifact of high technologicaly compmlpexity of the Tama Toledo area.

Where come from? My Dad, while digging a post hole for a fence, started to bring up Indian artifacts with his post hole digger. I myself was intrigued. What was it? What type of civilization did it imply? I was surprised when he stopped digging and filled the hole back in with blaseness and without comment and went on with other yard work.

I guess the lesson to be learned is that some lessons are sometimes too much to handle. The lesson I reluctantly learned from the "junk days, "is sometimes one shouldn't delve too much into the past if one wants to preserve their sense of complaceny.

Better to perhaps get back from one's convenience store joband when you get back to your room, click on Netflix, and settle down for the evening. As I have learned the hard way, unsettle ones person's pre-conceived notions, can be upsetting. After all, who wants rough edges?

John Anderson




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